Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Solving the Cube

I love solving my Rubik's Cube. Its discernible patterns help my brain to disengage after a long day. I just pulled it from my bag on the train home, and made some new acquaintances in Betsy, Jim, and Jay. Betsy saw the cube and asked if I really knew how to solve it, so from Fenway to Brookline Village, I did just that.

I think my brain enjoys the cube and its patterns simply because, by now, I know how it works. I know what to do to solve it. After a long day of contemplating rites and ritual, God, grace and compassion, and ecclesiology, the cube is respite. There is no deep consideration required. Don't get me wrong, I am loving seminary and thriving on these deep discussions, but if you only live, eat, and breathe one thing, you'll soon grow less find of it. So I solve the Rubik's cube.

Tomorrow is my last day of classes for my second year of seminary. I cannot, cannot, cannot believe it's come and gone so quickly. Some days I feel like a jumbled up cube... mismatched colors, portions of me turning one direction while other pieces of my entity are firmly grounded. Some days I feel partially solved; I'm still a bit of a mess but I have the foundation to keep growing. And once in a great while, I really feel put together. I think feeling put together is a misnomer, I don't think we ever feel 100% great or perfect about everything in our lives, but maybe being put together is merely knowing how to handle the mayhem. How do we respond to the jumbled mess before us?

What I've learned in the last two years is immense, both in quantity and in gravity. Serious discussions on life and death issues, relationships, the nature of humanity, social constructs and systems theories, how to engage healthily with people wielding painful weaponry, and concerns of pastoral self-care and boundaries. I've befriended people who have been married, divorced, birthed and parented children, buried parents, honored parents and former mentors, flirted, disagreed, preached, laughed, cried, and loved people from afar, and we've done it all while trying to live authentic diverse lives as people of faith.

I wouldn't trade these experiences for they are grounding me and serve as the foundational experiences for what I will do for the rest of my life. Throughout life we will all at times be messed up patterns of a Rubik's cube, and sometimes we'll have it all "together." And when we're a mess, the beauty of the solved puzzle is underneath. It's there. We just have to trust and continue seeking.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Keeping Sabbath..?

Below is a reflection I wrote regarding Sabbath for my weekly Contextual Education group. 

Holy Week is done, and with it my first experiences of “leadership” within the church during such times.  I spent all of Monday and a large portion of Tuesday resting, a task not achieved without some sense of guilt due to the amount of work which remains at the end of this academic year.  There is certainly a part of me which feels I was wrong to take such leisure time, papers and church projects abound, and yet there is a part which recognizes the necessity of taking time to rest if for no other reason than physical health needs. 
                I’ve not been the most successful at maintaining my Sabbath this academic year, and although it late in the semester to begin hammering home stronger habits, I determined at some point in the past two or three weeks that I wasn’t going to work myself into ill health anymore for the sake of academic deadlines.  I’ve spent far too much time the semester sick, and now that I’m finally feeling well, I’ve no desire to return to the land of ilk.  So, I rest.  And I can feel badly about myself for being further behind on studies, or I can cheer myself for taking the necessary steps in self-care to ensure that my remaining weeks at my church and BUSTH are as successful as they possibly can be. 
            Much of my Sabbath was spent sleeping.  When I wasn’t sleeping, I was actually cooking a meal for myself, writing a letter to friends, or talking with loved ones on the phone. There’s something therapeutic for me in writing letters to people, in putting pen to paper, that is deeply spiritual.  The ink flowing from the pen in cursive reminds me of the creative power of human beings, the words remind me of the constructive and destructive things we can do.  The act of cooking is in its own ways personal, causing one to explore the simple question of, “what do I want to eat?” with the understanding of taste, texture, and temperature.  Speaking to loved ones brings about laughter, smiles, and tears of joy and pain, all of which have helped remind me to whom I belong and the sometimes powerless reality of humanity. 
            I am growing to appreciate Sabbath for its abilities not only in replenishing my energies and spirits but also for its necessary demands which force me to set reasonable limits for myself.  It may have taken me all year to realize, but I am the only one who can ensure that I am cared for, I am the only one who can ensure that I have time for myself.  The school work and the church work will always be there, so time for myself, boundaries, and limits are necessary for my ministry and my life. The Greatest Commandment is to love God with all my heart and soul, and to love my neighbor as I love myself.  Therefore, if I were to extend the same deadlines and understanding of Sabbath to my neighbors as I do myself, I likely wouldn’t have many neighbors willing to talk to me.  If I wish to extend levels of gratitude and Sabbath to my neighbors, I must to some degree be willing to extend (and therefore accept) a similar level of Sabbath to and for myself. 
Let it be known that I do indeed feel a sense of backlash over my days of Sabbath.  They are not feelings of guilt, but rather the inexorable sense that I've backed myself into a proverbial corner with upcoming deadlines and will in no way successfully complete everything I must in an orderly and appropriate fashion.  Truthfully, there are one, if not two and three major projects due each of the remaining weeks of the semester.  It will be a memorable feat to finish this semester with any semblance of sanity intact.  And yet I trust that all will work out in the end.

I'm learning to trust Sabbath, I'm learning to appreciate Sabbath, I'm learning to not be so demanding and hard on myself.  It's not easy, but the spiritual practice of Sabbath will, I believe, help me to continue recognizing not only my physical and spiritual needs but to also recognize what REALLY matters in this world.